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Quite Interesting

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Stephen smiles to himself as he fills the kettle up and places it on the stove to boil. He surveys the contents of his fridge with a critical eye before deciding that a simple breakfast would be the best plan. If his overnight guest was still hungry, he could always get out the pack of bacon he kept for a treat for himself and put together something more substantial. He moves to retrieve the packet of crumpets from the cupboard and contemplates how he had left his guest, tucked up in bed, golden curls still spilling over the pillow. He feels a pang of regret that he had left him at all and briefly considers going back to bed to join him, but the lure of tea and breakfast proves too strong.  

Stephen is just putting the crumpets in to toast when he hears the creak of the pipes, the rumble that indicates that someone is using the bathroom. He smiles to himself as he gets out the butter and the jam, laying the table for two, listening to the shuffling sounds of someone else moving around his London flat. The kettle is just starting to whistle when his guest appears in the doorway, hesitating there. Stephen turns to him. 'Good morning my dear.' 

James shifts uncertainly, hand coming up to ruffle his sleep-messy curls. 'Morning.' He reminds Stephen of a woodland creature, bold under the cover of darkness but shy and wary in the mid morning sun that streams through the kitchen blinds. He moves the whistling kettle off the heat and reaches for his box of tea bags, offering them to James. 'Pick whichever tea you like.' James blinks sleepily, padding softly across the kitchen to take the box, long fingers rifling through the options (all Twinings: Stephen hasn't paid for a tea bag in over a decade) before selecting a peppermint tea. Stephen takes the bag, their fingers brushing, before busying himself with making both James's tea and his own. He indicates to the table. 'Take a seat, the crumpets should just about be ready.' 

James gives a soft little 'Oh' of surprise before settling down into the seat closest to him. Stephen places the steaming mug in front of him before depositing the hot crumpets onto a plate and placing them in the middle of the table. He sips from his own mug of tea as he sits down opposite James. 'I've got bacon in the fridge if you would prefer?' James shakes his head. 'No, this is perfect, thank you.' Stephen feels something warm unfurl in him at James's soft little voice, similar to the early stand up clips that Stephen would never admit to watching repeatedly. The warmth spreads further as James glances over at him through his fringe. Stephen gives an imperious wave of his hand. ' Well go on, dig in before they get cold!' It's worth playing up to his schoolmaster image for the shy grin that comes across James's face as he reaches for the pile, carefully flipping two crumpets onto his own plate. 

Stephen carefully takes his own crumpets, watching as James spreads a thick layer of butter on each of his before passing the butter over. As Stephen spreads a far more modest amount of butter on his crumpets James examines the jar of jam. 'I didn't think you were supposed to have jam on crumpets?' Stephen shakes his head as he places his knife down on his plate. 'One isn't supposed to, but I happen to know that you have a rather sweet tooth, and I didn't want to take any chances.' He's rewarded by a grin pulling at James's mouth as he picks up the jar. 'Oh, well then, I can hardly turn that down can I?' Stephen takes another sip of his tea to hide his smile as James twists off the lid of the jam and scoops a small amount out. Stephen tuts. 'Go on, have a bit more than that. Indulge a little. You've earned it after last night, I would say.' 

James nearly drops the jam, his face going bright red at the mention of the night before. He glances up at Stephen nervously as he carefully scoops out a larger dollop of jam onto the second crumpet. Stephen tries to keep his body language as open and relaxed as possible. He had suspected that this shy, morning version of James might be embarrassed about his actions from the night before and wanted to address that, but by the hunch of James's shoulders his attempt to swing the conversation in that direction had not quite gone as he had planned. He retreats to silence, letting James relax from his tense posture. They eat in silence for a while and Stephen takes the opportunity to enjoy the quiet. He normally has the radio on or does the daily crossword online while he eats his breakfast, so this is a welcome change of pace. The only noises permeating the kitchen are the sounds of them eating, the occasional rattle of cutlery and sip of tea. 

James finishes his first crumpet, licking a stray dribble of melted butter from his thumb in a way that Stephen finds very distracting. Something must show on his face as James blushes again before straightening up, meeting Stephen's gaze. Stephen notices the determined set of his shoulders and quickly finishes the last bite of his own crumpet. James takes a deep breath. 'About last night…' Stephen hums, an encouraging noise. James continues. '... I just wanted to apologise. For last night.' Stephen scoffs. 'Whatever for my dear? As far as I'm concerned, none of your actions require an apology of any kind.' He watches James flush again, ducking his head and fiddling with the second crumpet on his plate. His voice is quiet when he next speaks. 'But I was so…' his voice drops to a whisper '...needy. Desperate.' 

Stephen feels himself blush slightly at the memory, James sprawled across his sheets, begging to be touched. He shakes his head slightly to dislodge the thought. 'That was one of my favourite parts of last night. I took it as a compliment, to be perfectly honest.' James's head shoots up, a surprised look on his face before a shy grin grows. 'I'm not normally that bad, it's just been a while.' 

It's Stephen's turn to look surprised. 'Really? I'd have thought all the girls would be throwing themselves at a pretty little thing like you. And plenty of the boys, too.' His voice turns sly as James blushes again, shifting in his seat. 'Yeah well… None of them were really what I needed.' Stephen grins, picking up his tea to give his hands something to do. 'I think you were very clear about exactly what you needed last night.' James is still blushing furiously, but he's smiling too, and Stephen counts it as a success. He can't help himself from pushing further, flirting a little more, seeing how far he could go before James makes his excuses and leaves. 'I must say, you do have a gift for making this old man feel… desirable.'

James actually meets Stephen’s gaze this time, a wry grin curling at the corner of his mouth. ‘You’re not that old Stephen. And I’m not as young as you think I am either.’ Stephen takes the opportunity to lean back in his chair and examine James sitting opposite. The bold recklessness from last night is slowly seeping back, in the lazy sprawl and the flirty edge to his smile and his voice. Stephen takes care to show his admiration on his face, watches James flush further as he allows his gaze to meander along the planes of James’s body, spotting a red mark on his neck, just at the edge of his collar. He remembers putting it there, the way James had writhed underneath him and breathlessly begged for more and feels a heat stir in his belly that has nothing to do with the tea he’s drinking. He brings his gaze back to meet James’s, letting his desire show in his voice. ‘I know very well you’re not as young as you look. Innocent, you are not, Mr Acaster.’ 

The grin that spreads across James's face is as far from innocent as humanly possible, and it makes Stephen shiver. He watches as James picks up his mug, long fingers curling around it, deliberate movement that Stephen can't help but follow, remembering the deceptive strength in James's grip as he had pulled Stephen closer, deeper. There's amusement dancing in James's eyes as he takes a sip of his tea, only breaking eye contact at the last moment. Stephen doesn't realise that he is holding his breath until it all comes out in a rush, closer to a sigh than he dares to admit to. He reaches for his second crumpet to occupy his mouth, lest he say something that he can't take back. James puts his mug down and reaches for his own crumpet. 'You doing any more recordings today then?' Stephen shakes his head, glad for the change in topic. 'No, nothing until next week now. I don't think I have anything on at all for the next few days, although I'm sure there's something I'm forgetting about.'

James nods, taking a bite from his crumpet, chasing the jam that dribbles from the side. Stephen finds himself watching the flex of his jaw, the bob of his throat as he swallows and takes a big bite from his own crumpet to distract himself. James pauses before his next bite. 'I don't have anything on myself today. I'm completely free.' The casual tone of his voice contrasts with the air of mischief that still surrounds him. Stephen knows there's a question implied and chooses to answer the more obvious one. 'Well in that case, you're welcome to stay as long as you like. I'm certainly not going to kick you out.' He feels his voice drop into a flirty tone without his permission. 'You make for very good company.' Internally he winces at the suggestive undertone, but the brilliant smile that crosses James's face is worth it. 

They continue eating for another moment before James speaks again. 'Seeing as neither of us have anywhere to be today, I was wondering…' He tilts his head to one side as he tails off, studying Stephen, who feels himself blush under the scrutiny. A wicked grin curls at the corner of James's mouth and Stephen's heart thumps in his chest. He watches, half eaten crumpet dangling from his fingers as James leans forward, resting his elbows on the table and clasping his hands in front of his plate. He ducks his head, somehow making his lanky frame seem smaller, looking up at Stephen through near-transparent eyelashes and golden fringe. His eyes are very big, wide and innocent. 'Please Sir, can I have some more?' 

The thunderbolt of lust strikes Stephen far stronger than he would ever admit to. There’s something about the innocent act that James is putting on that calls to him, irresistible in a way that makes Stephen feel like a dirty old man. He’s struck speechless, the crumpet falling from his suddenly nerveless fingers, sure that every thought and emotion, the wild desire racing through him is laid out clear as day on his face for James to see. He knows when James realises that his little plan has worked, a sparkle of pure mischief that dances in his eyes as he doubles down on the act, shrinking down further in his chair, his eyes as wide as they can go. ‘Pretty please Sir, I really would like some more.’ 

Stephen feels something inside him snap. Abruptly he stands, feeling like somebody else is controlling his limbs as he crosses to James’s side of the table in two firm strides. He hauls James up by the back of his collar, James easily going with the motion, almost as if he was expecting it. James is tall but Stephen is taller, pulling himself to his full height as James ducks his head, mischievousness still sparkling in his eyes. Stephen gets the impression that underneath the innocent act, James is laughing at him, and it reminds him that though James may lack the university education of many of his peers, his ability to read a situation and play it to his advantage is second to none. He tuts, desperately trying to wrestle back some control over the situation. ‘You insolent little brat. I’m trying to enjoy my breakfast and you’re being extremely distracting and I won’t stand for it.’ 

James seems sag slightly, Stephen's grip still firm on his collar. 'I'm sorry Sir.' His tone is contrite, apologetic, but Stephen can hear the breathless edge to it that tells him that James is enjoying this as much as he is. He's about to put James down, continue with breakfast now he has apologised when James speaks again. 'I s'pose you'll have to punish me Sir, to make sure I've really learnt my lesson.' 

Stephen's grip tightens automatically as his brain registers James's words. He only hears James whine in the back of his throat because they are so close, and suddenly breakfast is the furthest thing from his mind. He's fervently glad that his dressing gown is thick enough that it hides just how turned on James has made him, but a quick glance down confirms that James is in a similar state. He summons as much imperious majesty as he is capable of. 'I think that might be wise. Cheeky insolent boys like you need this sort of lesson beaten into them, don't you agree?' He gets to watch James's pupils dilate at the suggestion, his cheeky grin peeking through the innocent facade as he nods. 'I would agree, Sir.' Stephen nods. 'Good.' He turns and marches James towards the door of the kitchen, hand still tight on his collar. James stumbles but quickly catches up, a lightness to his step that makes Stephen smile. As they leave the room he spares a thought for the remains of their breakfast, the half eaten crumpets and cooling tea left on the table, but as James whines impatiently he decides that he has more important matters to attend to right now.